Whole Foods partners for composting

Whole Foods Market has launched a composting program, which captures food and packaging wastes, in 8 of its Chicago-area stores, converting 80 percent of its wastes into soil material for use in landscaping.

Implemented at the Schaumburg and Sauganash, Chicago, locations in February 2011, the program has expanded to eight Illinois stores. Participating stores include Schaumburg, Sauganash and Lincoln Park in Chicago, Deerfield, Naperville, Palatine, Northbrook and Evanston. These stores have recovered and repurposed more than 1,100 tons of food wastes, meaning that about 10 percent of wastes are disposed of in landfills. By contrast, those 8 pioneering stores used to divert only about 10 percent of their wastes.

“Prior to composting, everything went into the trash because the store couldn’t recycle it,” said Kaili Harding, marketing manager of Whole Foods Market Schaumburg. “It was a learning process. Now we use only a small bin for our landfill waste, and what used to be a large garbage compactor is now our compost compactor.”

As interest grew from grocers and restaurateurs, Illinois approved legislation that allowed yard waste composting facilities to apply for permits to accept food wastes. With permitted sites available in 2011, Whole Foods Market immediately launched its program.

The stores capture out-of-date food from each of the departments, as well as from its administrative and customer service areas, and place it into a compost container located at the rear of the store. Waste Management collects the container and takes it to a site in Romeoville, Illinois, where it is mixed with yard wastes and, over a six-month period, converted into compost for use in landscaping.

Each store department is equipped with green, blue and black containers. The green one, for food wastes going to compost, is the largest. The blue container is for recyclables, which are collected and transported to the Whole Foods Market distribution center in Munster, Indiana. In turn, they are shipped to a recycling processor. The black container, the smallest of the three, is for material to be disposed in a landfill.